RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The year’s largest one-day national food drive is Saturday, and it comes at a time of great need.
Postal workers across the country will collect non-perishable food and hygiene items as part of the annual Stamp Out Hunger event. It is scheduled to coincide with the end of the school year and start of summer break.
“Children who are normally eligible to receive two meals a day, either free or at a reduced cost at school, will be out of school,” said Jessica Whichard at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
“Not only will they not have access to those meals, their family’s budgets will be stretched even further when it comes to childcare, when it comes to energy costs, air conditioning, and transportation. It is a really big time for us. I think folks maybe don’t recognize the challenges that happen during the summer when kids lose access to those meals.”
The National Association of Letter Carriers delivered millions of blue bags this week to mailboxes across the country. People also received postcards about the event.
The hope is for people to put canned goods and other items into the bags and leave them at their mailboxes. Post offices will also host collection sites.
“To see those bags lined up down the street, it’s just a wonderful thing, and it does your heart so well. If you haven’t done anything for anyone else all year long, this one time of year, do this,” Raleigh letter carrier Jamaal Mattocks said.
“Give from your heart. Actually, if you give out of guilt, I’ll take that too. I just want you to give. It doesn’t take any time at all, you grab a bag, you put a few items in it, put it by the mailbox, and your friendly neighborhood letter carrier will be coming by to scoop it up.”
More than 50,000 students in the Wake County Public School System qualify for free or reduced priced meals. That’s nearly one-third of the total enrollment. The school system has a summer meal program, but donations to the food bank will help support many more families.
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina will launch a Stop Summer Hunger initiative next week. FBCENC serves 34 counties, and Whichard said there are 600,000 people facing food insecurity in its coverage area. About one-third of those people are children.
“This food drive is hugely vital. It’s great stuff that folks get for themselves when they go grocery shopping and so it’s really excellent nutritious food,” Whichard said.
“Whole wheat pasta, vegetables, fruits, and things that people in need are really looking for in the summer. We’re really happy to have this food drive taking place when it does.”
She anticipates an increased demand this year as Hurricane Matthew victims continue to deal with the ongoing impact of the storm. People are still displaced from their homes, and many suffered losses of items stocked in pantries and freezers.
Mattocks said letter carriers will continue to accept food drive items left by mailboxes through next week for people unable to participate on Saturday. There is also an “virtual food drive” at http://foodbankcenc.org/stampouthunger for financial donations to the Raleigh-based food bank.